Copywriting with Compassion: Obituaries and Eulogies

obituaries and eulogies

Writing assistance for obituaries and eulogies

There are times when we honor our departed loved ones with death notices, obituaries and eulogies. Sometimes service programs are composed for funerals and memorial services, as well.

The writing may be difficult due to grief and emotion. Please contact me if I can be assistance, but for those who prefer to do the writing, the general guide below may be useful…and I emphasize the word “general” because each situation is sensitive and unique.

What to Include in a Death Notice

There is a difference between death notices and obituaries. Death notices are a brief summaries of essential details about a person who has died. They are paid announcements submitted to a newspaper and published for a fee. They may also be published by civic associations, religious organizations, funeral parlors and online sites such as

Basic Information:

  • Full name of deceased, including maiden name and nickname
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of marriage, and name of spouse
  • Date of death
  • Location of death (county, city, and state)
  • Cause of death (optional)

If the newspaper allows, the additional details shown below can be included.

What to Include in an Obituary

Obituaries are also fee-based, but are often more intimate. They differ depending on the size of newspaper doing the publishing. Larger newspapers usually write short form obituaries (800 words or less) — and often do not allow family members to submit the content. Instead, a journalist will write the details including a detailed biography (place of birth, places lived, life achievements), family members who preceded your loved one in death, remaining family members, time and place of death, and perhaps the cause of death.

However, smaller local and community newspapers might publish long-form obituaries which are over 800 words and more editorial. Civic associations, religious organizations, funeral parlors and online sites such as may also publish the obituary.

The basic death notice information (above) should be included, as well as the additional information below:

  • Education, schools attended, degrees and certifications earned, and honors received
  • Military service, honors and awards
  • Employment history, job titles, awards, and special achievements
  • Membership in religious, cultural, community, civic, and fraternal organizations
  • Special accomplishments (competitions, volunteerism, humanitarian recognition, record-holder status, etc.)
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Names and relationship of family members who preceded the deceased in death (optional)
  • Names and relationship of surviving family members (optional)
  • Details of the funeral service.
    • If there will be public service, mention the date, time, and location of service
    • For private services, usually the date is mentioned (optional)
  • Address to send flowers (usually the funeral home — optional)
  • Name and address (or website) of charity or organization to which donations can be made

Obituaries and Eulogies are Two Totally Different Things

A eulogy is a loving and sincere funeral speech given by a friend, family member or colleague of the deceased. Ask yourself what tone is appropriate — solemn or lighthearted? This may depend on the circumstances of death and the personality of the deceased. The steps below may help as you compose and deliver a eulogy.

Consider the background of the deceased. Did he or she have a sense of humor? What was his or her proudest accomplishment? How would he or she want to be remembered? Write the eulogy in a way that honors who the deceased was and what he or she valued.

Consider the audience. Will the family appreciate hearing escapades or heartwarming stories about the deceased? Was the deceased in the military or serve as first responder? Was the deceased in the public eye or have large groups of acquaintances? Would the audience expect a serious tone or a more conversational delivery?

Consider the introduction. As you introduce yourself at the memorial, state who you are and your relationship to the deceased. Provide a brief background of the deceased and share specific instances when he or she impacted your life, and/or the life of others.

Honor the journey of the deceased. Explain why the deceased will be missed and what contributions they made to society as a whole. What obstacles did they overcome and what inspiration did they leave behind? If appropriate, include a humorous or lighthearted anecdote.


Some funerals and memorials include programs that detail the service. Words from the obituary may be included as well as names of the officiant and speakers. Some families prefer an ornate custom-designed program, while others do not. It is important to have the program proofread for flow and grammatical correctness.

Please contact me if you are struggling with the content and tone of programs, death notices, obituaries and eulogies. Feel free to visit my Services Page for additional writing help.